Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Norman Mingo, the Manet of MAD Magazine, (or MAD for Modernism)


Norman Mingo

Norman Mingo is one of my favorite painters. His work has a lot in common with that of Edoaurd Manet, another favorite. Both Manet and Mingo convey much about their subjects by depicting them with only a few specific details, the backgrounds are minimal and flat.

Edouard Manet, Dead Toreador, 1863

Manet’s work depicts styles and attitudes at the cusp of the twentieth century. His technique basically founded Modern painting.

Mingo’s work pretty much just uses a lot of visual puns to attract kids to spend their allowances, and remind us that Alfred E. Newman is an idiot born under a bad sign.

Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863

Manet employs his fair share of visual puns too. All those cats, flowers, and fish, aren’t fooling around. They represent exactly what you think they do. And, certainly it’s not missing the point to think that “Dejeuner sur l herbe” is sort of funny. It’s at least uncommon, even now, in it’s balance of technical merit and raunchy sense of the absurd.

Edouard Manet, Dejeuner sur l'herbe, 1863

Norman Mingo

Norman Mingo’s MAD Magazine covers have a way more obvious context in the Saturday Evening Post covers of Norman Rockwell. Both artists use narrative to convey a certain attitude and cultural position. Reading Mingo’s work as parody of the mainstream manners of the Saturday Evening Post, (except when it’s blatantly a parody), while accurate, feels reductive.

The way Manet and Mingo deal with comedy is similar.

Norman Mingo

They both have a fondness for lowbrow jokiness, which makes sense in both cases. Manet is only funny sometimes; most of his work isn’t funny at all. Manet and Mingo depict their subjects in strange world’s of their own, worlds that have their own physical laws yet are superficially similar to ours in the fine details. The subjects are presented in odd, stagey circumstances, and frequently they regard the viewer with an attitude of bemused nonchalance. “What, me worry?”

Norman Mingo

Edouard Manet, The Ragpicker